Behind the Scenes with Marvin Evatt

Author’s Note:

In my admittedly short career as a journalist, I’ve learned the best stories are the ones that find you.  That’s what happened with Donna Kelly, the janitor I stumbled upon in the hallway of my freshman dorm.  That’s what happened with Marvin Evatt, the campus security officer who became a country star…and it all started with a broken pickup.

Last fall, my roommate’s truck ran out of oil, so we drove to Circle K to get some more–until we realized neither one of us knew how to actually change the oil (I don’t have a car, so I had an excuse)!  We asked a campus security officer for help, and while my roommate stayed inside the gas station to pay for the oil, I was just making small talk.

“So how long have you been working at Belmont?” I asked.  He said he’d been back for about three months, but he had actually worked here on campus a few years ago.

“Really?  So what were you doing in between?”

“Oh, I was in a band; we were on tour.”

Obviously, I thought it was pretty cool, but this is Nashville — everyone’s in a band–so I didn’t think much of it…until I got back to my apartment and searched for Carolina Rain.  As it turns out, they were nominated for Top New Duo or Group of the Year when Lady Antebellum won in 2008.

That’s when I knew I had to tell Marvin Evatt’s story–I’m so thrilled he trusted me to tell it!

So here’s an exclusive, unpublished Q & A with the man himself!

Favorite Nashville venue:

Every time I played the Bluebird [Café], I loved it.  I got a really good vibe there.

Favorite Carolina Rain song: “Sweet Virginia Kiss.” It gives me the feel of the beach, which I love…It’s not about me, but I love to sing it.  It’s my favorite song.  I just love the melody and the harmony and everything.

Favorite unreleased Carolina Rain song (from “American Radio”): “Make This Mountain Move.”  It’s actually about a big party, which is something that we’d never done before.

So much of country music these days is about drinking your sorrows away or going out and partying, but Carolina Rain’s catalog is all very positive.  Why do you think that is?

God. That’s what bound the group together and that’s what gave us the positive perspective and outlook…You know, we went through so much together, and everything we wrote, it just turned positive, even if we started a negative song!

Who were some of your musical influences growing up?

Alabama was my huge influence… I was on [my dad’s] shoulders, and everybody was going crazy, and they come out, and I said, “What’s the name of that band?”  And he said, “Wild Country.”  Then a few months later, they changed their name to Alabama and released their first album.  I remember going in there and seeing the three on stage and just remember everybody going like that (clapping over his head).  And I knew I wanted to entertain in some way.

When did you learn to play guitar?

Mom and Dad bought me one when I was young and I wanted to go out and play.  I wanted to do other things. And I sure wish I would have [learned then] because I can play, but I’m not incredible at the guitar.  It was funny, too, because I even consider myself a banjo player before a guitarist, and I didn’t learn banjo until we got signed…I already had the finger movements so it didn’t really take that much.  And I didn’t learn through anybody, I taught myself again…I’ve never had a formal lesson, which is scary, but it worked out pretty well.

You must have met a lot of country superstars out on the road.  Who was your favorite?

Garth [Brooks] was the weirdest to meet.  It was actually the quickest and the strangest just because I was so hypnotized or something — I don’t even know what it was — like I couldn’t even speak.

What’s the most nerve-wracking show you’ve ever played?

We played at the Grand Ole Opry 42 times.  I remember the first time I played it was awesome, but like the second or third time, we did the video portion, and it was at the Ryman.  That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life. I still get—and always did get nervous, but I also thought it was a good thing because you can look at it in two ways: I always say if you don’t get nervous, it means you don’t care about it.

Imagine you’re a guest lecturer at a Belmont music business class.  What advice would you give the songwriters?

When you’re writing a song, your first instinct is, “Man, this is a hit.”  And it’s like that every time, almost. So I’ve learned to write a song and then absolutely not think of it or play it for at least two weeks, and then come back to it, listen to it, and sing it.  And if you still have that same reaction, there’s a possibility that it could do something.  But nine times out of 10, I’ll come back and I’ll be like, “Oh, it’s okay.  It’s all right.”

And what would you tell the aspiring artists?

I’ll tell everybody the exact same thing.  If you think that’s what you want to do and you’re passionate about it, do it… I mean, sure, you have to be talented.  But I would tell them that you can make it happen.  You just may have to do it a long time, which is fine.  But I think when you want something so bad and you push so hard, people see that and they want to work with that … It’s crazy how many people don’t chase after their dream because it’s scary.

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